We live in a hurry-up world. Everything moves faster each year. Advances in technology, the availability of information, and the ways we interact with our world and one another are constantly changing.
As our world has sped up, so have our expectations.
When it comes to grief and loss, we have even higher-speed expectations for ourselves and others. For instance, what felt like a few short weeks after my mother’s death a colleague asked why I wasn’t “over it” yet. Our expectations of the grieving or of ourselves contain overt or covert pressure to get back “normal” as fast as we can.
When I first began training with Dr. Alan Wolfelt at the Center for Loss and Life Transition, I heard him say “there are no rewards for speed” when it comes to mourning our losses. There are lots of reasons and pressures both internal and external that can impose a sense of timing that is not our own on our grief process.
People around us may be uncomfortable with the way our grief shows up – and wish that we would get back to “normal.”
This “normal” might look like them not feeling the discomfort of your feelings. At work, this “normal” might look like the same level of productivity you held before the loss experience you are having. In fact, most workplaces have little awareness of how grief comes to work.
No rewards for speed
It turns out you can’t rush the process of mourning your losses. Immediately after your loss, the intensity of your grief may feel a bit overwhelming. You may be flooded by the sorrow, doubt, uncertainty and regret you feel. There are all kinds of feelings that can bubble up – including anger. You may find yourself questioning things – ranging from thoughts in the immediate situation to questions about how you will go forward without your loved one or job or marriage.
Hopefully, over time, the intensity of your feelings will ease. Know that the easing of these feelings will happen in a timing true to you. When it seems as if nothing is easing, take a pause. Reflect on the things you feel most grateful for each day. Look for glimpses of hope, encouragement, or support. These may only feel like glimpses today but can grow into opportunities to rest in the care and support of others.
Try this: at the end of each day, take a moment to consider how your grief felt that day. You could give it a number on a 1 to 10 scale with 10 being a high intensity day. Jotting this number down on your calendar each day can give you a way to see your own progress around your sense of loss. You may discover that your feelings come in waves. Some days grief is practically bubbling out of your nose while other days it can feel more like a low-grade fever. Either way, tracking your sense of grief over time can help you see the process unfolding. You can visually see that the intensity is different each day. And you can encourage yourself with this information.
Here’s the thing, when we mourn, it can be tempting to compare how we are doing with how others are managing. Dr. Brene Brown says that comparison is a creativity killer. When we compare ourselves to others, we diminish our own capacity to access inner tools we need to care for ourselves, to be compassionate, kind and creative with ourselves as we grieve. Comparison robs us of the possibility of being attentive to our grief for as long as it takes.
Something else to consider; if your loss is a death loss or divorce, ask yourself how long you loved the person. Was it years or centuries? Was it their entire life? Remind yourself that you grew in love with that person over time – over the course of their life and yours. Growing towards love takes time. So of course, mourning the loss of a relationship – death or divorce – will take time too. Rather than seeking to “get over” your loss, consider how you might come alongside it. Because you loved that person, there is no reason to hurry through mourning. Instead, you can give yourself permission to take all the time you need.
How you take that time is up to you.
Remembering that each person’s grief is as individual as their thumbprint, try not to measure your “grief work” against those around you who also loved that person. Their grief is their own. You and they get to choose your responses over and over again. What and how you grieve gets to be uniquely consistent with you and your relationship with the one who is gone from your life.
A watershed moments coach can come alongside your experience of grief and loss providing support, encouragement, education about the nature of grief and insight that can assist you as you mourn. Collaborating with a coach is an investment in finding your way forward after a significant life change. Connect with us for a brief introductory conversation where we will explore whether we are a fit for your current grief needs. Click here to schedule a no-charge, 20-minute conversation where we will learn more about one another.